|"Since the beginning of time, I've fashioned faces with great deliberation -- with all my heart! In each face, I put a piece of my own being!"|
|— The Mother of Faces to Aang and Katara.|
The Mother of Faces is one of the most powerful, ancient spirits. She has the ability to give faces to living organisms, bestowing plants and animals with expressive markings. The Mother of Faces owns a wolf that has a face imprinted on its fur, residing in Forgetful Valley with many other similar creatures. She is also the mother of Koh, the Face Stealer.
Since the dawn of time, the Mother of Faces has crafted faces for both living and non-living beings, placing a piece of herself in each face she created. It was because of her actions that separateness and identity came into the world. During this time, the Mother of Faces became estranged from her son, who later became known as Koh, the Face Stealer.
The Mother of Faces was often sought out by humans, who usually requested her to give them a new face and identity. Despite being offended by people when they rejected the faces she had created for them, she pitied them enough to grant their request. However, the Mother of Faces would only grant one request to one human once a season. When that time comes, she travels through Forgetful Valley, following the path her wolf spirit had chosen for her and looked for a human whose wish she would grant.
During one of her travels through the forest, the Mother of Faces encountered Ikem, who had been living there as a hermit. She was asked to grant him a new face and complied with the request, enabling him to return to Hira'a as Noren and start his new life.
In 95 AG, the Mother of Faces was again visited by Ikem, this time joined by Ursa, who also wished to have a new face to hide her identity. The spirit was surprised that a woman of such beauty would desire this, so she offered her a much plainer face to test her sincerity, which Ursa accepted this new face regardless of its appearance. Sensing that Ursa was experiencing great emotional pain, the spirit offered to erase her memories associated with them as well, though she confirmed that the former Fire Nation princess would not remember her children as well, being a part of those memories. Ursa accepted both gifts, so the Mother of Faces gave her a new identity as Noriko.
In 102 AG, the Mother of Faces was approached by Aang, who had been brought to her by clutching on to her wolf's fur. Enraged that somebody would use her wolf as a "beast of burden", she demanded his name. Learning she was being confronted by the Avatar, she introduced herself as the Mother of Faces and followed him back to where the rest of his friends were waiting. She introduced herself again as a generous spirit, softhearted and kind, responsible for the separation and the concept of identity in the world. She told them that she walked through her forest once a season but never strayed from the path her wolf chose for her though had done so now in deference to the Avatar, the great bridge between the spirits and the humans. She told them that she granted one favor to one human each season and invited them to make their request. Although Aang tried to convince her to grant two wishes to his group, the Mother of Faces remained adamant that she would grant only one wish.
Misu was given the chance to request a new face for her brother, Rafa, but was interrupted by Azula, who asked the spirit where her and Zuko's mother, Ursa, was. The Mother of Faces revealed Ursa's new identity as Noriko and proceeded to sink back into the pool. Misu waterbent at the spirit, but the Mother of Faces admonished her for bending the water of her sacred pool before receding back underwater. Aang claimed her to be cruel by not granting the second wish, prompting the spirit to once again rise from the pool. She explained how she crafted faces and felt as though humans were defiling her forest and making her a slave. She further admonished the Avatar for defiling her sacred pool and scolding her, and declared him just as bad as other humans. The Mother of Faces demanded that Aang and his friends leave the forest, siccing spirit animals on them. While trying to defend himself, one of Aang's air blasts knocked off Rafa's mask, revealing him to be faceless. Aang remarked how similar it seemed to the work of Koh, which piqued the Mother of Faces' interest, demanding her animals be silent. After Aang repeated what he knew about Koh, she revealed that he was her son, and that Koh was not the name she had given him. She asked Aang about how he had met Koh and listened as he told her about their previous encounters. The Mother of Faces felt Koh's handiwork on Rafa's face and restored it.
Afterward, she listened to Aang's apologies, who explained that they needed two favors to restore two different relationships, this time between a mother and son. This likely struck a chord with the spirit regarding her own estrangement from Koh. The Mother of Faces followed them out of Forgetful Valley and toward Hira'a, where she found and asked Noriko if she wanted to remember her old life as Ursa. She accepted the offer, and the Mother of Faces restored her memories and original face.
The Mother of Faces' most distinguishing ability is her power to grant a person a new identity, including physically change a person's face to something entirely new and emotionally altering their memory, like erase current recollections or restore lost ones. She does this by "grafting" a face of her creation over the person's original face. She is able to sense emotional pain of those in her presence and, if appropriate, offer a new mind that would not remember the memories causing that pain. This does have limits, however: If there are any good parts of those bad memories, those would be completely wiped as well. She is able to undo her alterations with no side effects.
Her power to give faces extends to her surroundings, branding temporary faces on living and inanimate objects in her vicinity. She can also identify, by touch, the specific "handiwork" of Koh left on his victims, and negate the effects of Koh's abilities.
When a face is restored by her, it will not be in the exact same state as it was when taken by Koh or changed by her, but rather will reflect the owner's natural age.
The Mother of Faces has the ability to change her size at will, being able to grow beyond the size of a forest.
|Mother of Faces||
- The Mother of Faces was originally conceived with the design of a Korean queen, but Gurihiru's trial sketches were enough to make Yang realize that this approach would not work. Once Michael Dante DiMartino began his collaboration with the art duo, the current design was finalized, with inspiration having been drawn from depictions of Guanyin, an East Asian deity of mercy and compassion. The team hoped that the Mother of Faces would feel "primal, ancient, and mysterious". For this purpose, images of multi-headed Hindu goddesses were sent to Gurihiru for reference.
- Central aspects of the Mother of Faces were influenced by the production of The Legend of Korra at that time. When Gene Luen Yang pitched the Mother of Faces to DiMartino, he was wary of her powers being too magical for the typical Avatar spirit. However, at that point in the series development, the team was apparently writing "Beginnings, Part 1": "For one of the episodes, we came up with the idea that spirits can take over a human body for a short time, but at great peril to the human." DiMartino told Yang to make it so that through contact with Ursa, the Mother of Faces could change her appearance based on this development in the show.
- Her abilities seem diametric to her son; the Mother of Faces has the ability to give faces, whereas Koh has the ability to take them.
- The Mother of Faces is the only known spirit to have children.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Search Part Three (October 30, 2013), Dark Horse Comics.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Search Part Two (July 10, 2013), Dark Horse Comics.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Search Library Edition (February 5, 2014), Dark Horse Comics.